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Christians in the Muslim World

Kuwait: the land of the long transition

The articulate and complex studies on migration often focus on the countries of arrival and those of departure and how they are affected by the movements of peoples. My experience in Kuwait, on the other hand, forces me to highlight the fact that The Gulf States are countries of neither departure nor arrival but, simply and dramatically, a land of transition. Even though this transition may last twenty, thirty or even forty years, it still indicates a precarious or unstable situation for those who live there and one of separation from the context of the local community. Kuwait numbers one million Kuwaitis and two million foreigners among whom 350 thousands are Catholic. The Kuwaiti citizens who are Christian are about 150 people, among whom four small Catholic families. With all probability, all of them will disappear through migration or absorption into other elements which include Islam. What contributes to shed light on this situation of instability is the fact that after the secondary school students cannot attend university in Kuwait, as this is only open to the Kuwaitis. The others can only leave, directed to their country of origin or elsewhere in, generally, the Western world. Even the ordinary faithful, once got to retirement age, no longer with a work contract allowing them to renew their stay permit, must leave the country -- unless they have managed to create their own business, obviously under Kuwaitian protection and sponsorship. The flip-side of this situation is that there exist two deeply separated communities, apart from few exceptions due to mixed marriages. As a Pastor in this country I thus feel compelled to accompany the Christian communities non just for the time they spend here in the Gulf but also with a view to the moment when they leave. Such a divide between local community and "transitory" community has been further stressed by the increase in islamic fundamentalism: at the last elections the fundamentalists obtained 36 parliamentary seats out of 60, thus achieving a wide majority, which causes a certain anxiety for the future of the Christians who live in the Gulf. However, the role of the Emir remains extremely important, as he continues to assure a balanced relationship among the various religions present in this country, Kuwait's own brand of métissage.